Which city is for you? Marseille or Strasbourg
If you’re struggling to decide between Marseille or Strasbourg for your next French adventure, you’re not alone. These two cities couldn’t be more different, and that’s what makes them so fascinating. Which one will be for you? The sunny coastline of Marseille with its diverse population and cuisine. Or the Northeastern city of Strasbourg? With its interesting mix of French and German influences. In this guide, we’ll compare the historic landmarks, cultural highlights, and local atmosphere of each city to help you decide what’s right for you.
Marseille, the vibrant port city in Southern France, is a melting pot of culture. This port city sits on the Mediterranean coast and is world-renowned for its architecture and cuisine.
Located near the German border, Strasbourg is a beautiful city that has a unique blend of French and German cultures. Mostly due to the fact that both countries have been in control of the city at multiple points throughout history. Known for its unique architecture and pretty canals there’s plenty to see in this unique city.
Pro’s and Con’s of Marseille and Strasbourg
- Rich history: Founded by the Greeks, Marseille has a long and storied past, offering visitors numerous historical sites and museums.
- Vibrant food scene: Marseille is famous for its delicious seafood, including its signature dish, bouillabaisse, and lively markets.
- Diverse neighbourhoods: Explore the unique character of each district, from the colourful Le Panier to the picturesque seafront village of Vallon des Auffes.
- Access to Calanques National Park: The stunning park features dramatic limestone cliffs, turquoise waters, and hidden coves for hiking and swimming.
- Multicultural atmosphere: As a melting pot of cultures, Marseille offers a unique and diverse atmosphere, with influences from North Africa, Italy, and other Mediterranean regions.
- Old Port (Vieux-Port): This historic harbour is the heart of Marseille, filled with boats, restaurants, and lively public spaces for people-watching and relaxation.
- Street art: Marseille is known for its vibrant street art scene, with many impressive murals and graffiti throughout the city.
- Sporting events: Home to the Stade Vélodrome and the popular football team, Olympique de Marseille, sports enthusiasts will have plenty of opportunities to catch a game.
- Safety concerns: Some areas of Marseille have a reputation for higher crime rates; it’s essential to be cautious and informed.
- Traffic and parking: Navigating the city by car can be challenging due to congestion and limited parking.
- Limited public transportation: The city’s public transportation system is not as extensive as in other major cities, making it less convenient for tourists.
Best for: History buffs, foodies, nature lovers, and sports enthusiasts.
- A unique blend of cultures: As the capital of the Alsace region, Strasbourg is known for its Franco-German heritage, offering a fascinating mix of architectural styles, food, and languages.
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The city’s historic centre, Grande Île, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring stunning attractions such as the Strasbourg Cathedral and half-timbered houses.
- Excellent public transportation: Strasbourg’s efficient tram and bus systems make it easy to explore the city and its surroundings.
- Charming canals: Strasbourg’s picturesque canals, especially in the Petite France district, provide a romantic setting for leisurely walks and boat tours.
- Christmas markets: The city is famous for its enchanting Christmas markets, which attract visitors from around the world during the festive season.
- European institutions: Strasbourg is home to several European institutions, including the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, making it an important political and cultural centre.
- Weather: Strasbourg has a temperate climate, with cool, wet winters and warm summers. However, it may not be as warm and sunny as other southern destinations in France.
- Smaller city: Strasbourg is smaller in size compared to other major French cities, which may offer fewer activities and options for extended stays.
- Tourist crowds: The city’s popularity, especially during the Christmas season, can lead to crowded streets and attractions.
Best for: History and architecture enthusiasts, those seeking a blend of French and German culture, and visitors interested in European politics and institutions.
How long to stay in Marseille
As France’s second-largest city, Marseille has plenty to see and do. You’ll want a minimum of three days here, but four days would be better. This should you give you enough time to see the main attractions. If you’re planning day trips or exploring nearby towns, maybe it might a good idea to stay for a little longer.
How long to stay in Strasbourg
Strasbourg may not be a huge city, but due to its history and unique location, we recommend staying for at least two to three days. If you have more time, its location on the German border means you can have lots of fun exploring both countries. The beautiful town of Colmar is worth a trip and Freiburg isn’t too far either.
How much is food and drink in Marseille?
Marseille has a wide range of dining options, from budget-friendly street food to high-end restaurants. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Marseille:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Marseille will likely cost between €5 and €8.
Glass of wine: A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €4 to €10, depending on the quality.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Marseille will likely cost between €2 and €4.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Marseille will likely cost between €20 and €40 per person, depending on the restaurant and the menu.
How much is food and drink in Strasbourg?
Strasbourg is known for its delicious cuisine and the city has plenty of amazing restaurants and cafes to choose from. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Strasbourg:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Strasbourg will likely cost between €5 and €7.
Glass of wine: Strasbourg is located in the heart of the Alsace wine region, so you’ll find plenty of great wines to try. A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €3 to €10, depending on the quality and rarity of the wine.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Strasbourg will likely cost between €1.50 and €3.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Strasbourg will likely cost between €20 and €40 per person, depending on the restaurant and the menu.
How much is it to stay in Marseille?
The cost of accommodation in Marseille can vary greatly depending on the time of year and location. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Marseille:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Marseille can cost anywhere from €150 to €500 per night, or even higher for the most exclusive properties.
Midrange hotel: A room in a midrange hotel in Marseille will likely cost between €80 and €150 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
Budget hotel: A room in a budget hotel in Marseille will likely cost between €40 and €80 per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hotel.
Hostel: A bed in a hostel in Marseille will likely cost between €20 and €40 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
How much is it to stay in Strasbourg?
The cost of accommodation in Strasbourg can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Strasbourg:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Strasbourg can cost anywhere from €150 to €500 per night, or even higher for the most exclusive properties.
Midrange hotel: A room in a midrange hotel in Strasbourg will likely cost between €70 and €150 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
Budget hotel: A room in a budget hotel in Strasbourg will likely cost between €40 and €70 per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hotel.
Hostel: A bed in a hostel in Strasbourg will likely cost between €20 and €40 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
When is the best time to visit Marseille?
Marseille is a great city to visit all year round. But, like most tourist destinations, there are certain times of the year that are busier and more crowded than others. Here are a few things to consider before planning your trip:
Weather: Marseille has a Mediterranean climate, meaning hot, dry summers and cool winters. Summers here get hot, reaching up to 30°C so make sure you pack accordingly. Spring and autumn are mild. Winters can be cold but you’ll rarely see temperatures below freezing.
Festivals: Marseille has a number of festivals that are worth checking out. Marseille Jazz des Cinq Continents festival is fantastic for jazz lovers. Fiesta des Suds is also a good festival for music fans. The city also hosts a number of cultural and sporting events throughout the year, so it’s worth checking the calendar before you go.
Crowds: Like most popular destinations, Marseille can get very busy during the summer and school holidays. Try visiting in the off season if you can, or visiting through the week.
When is the best time to visit Strasbourg?
Strasbourg is a city that can be enjoyed year-round, but the best time to visit depends on what you want to experience. Here are some things to consider:
Weather: Strasbourg’s mild climate can be enjoyed all year round, but pay attention to the weather forecast before visiting. Summers are warm and sunny but winters can get very cold. Snow isn’t uncommon. Spring and autumn are the best times to be visiting for milder weather and smaller crowds.
Festivals: Strasbourg Christmas markets are a must-see if you’re visiting over the Christmas period. They’re the oldest markets in France and have been going since 1570! With over 300 Christmas chalets in various squares around the city, there’s plenty of food and drink to try. The mulled wine is especially good to warm up on a cold day! There are plenty of festivals during the summer months too including the Strasbourg Music Festival, which is held every June.
Crowds: Strasbourg can get crowded during peak travel seasons, especially during the Christmas markets. To avoid the crowds, visit in spring and autumn or during weekdays instead of weekends.
Average Monthly Temperatures
The average monthly temperatures for Marseille are:
January: 9°C (48°F)
February: 9°C (48°F)
March: 11°C (52°F)
April: 14°C (57°F)
May: 18°C (64°F)
June: 22°C (72°F)
July: 25°C (77°F)
August: 25°C (77°F)
September: 22°C (72°F)
October: 17°C (63°F)
November: 12°C (54°F)
December: 9°C (48°F)
The average monthly temperatures for Strasbourg are:
Getting around Marseille:
Marseille has a good public transportation system, including buses, trams, and a metro system. Taxis are also available but can be expensive. Walking is a great way to explore the city centre, but if you want to cover more ground, consider renting a bike or taking a boat tour. The Marseille city pass is worth getting if you’re planning on using public transport.
Getting around Strasbourg:
Strasbourg has a really good public transport system like most French cities. You probably won’t need to use anything other than the tram, it covers pretty much all of the main attractions. But, for the places the tram doesn’t reach the buses will get you there. A single ticket costs €1.70 and is valid for up to 1 hour of travel, with transfers allowed within that time frame. If you plan on using public transportation frequently, consider purchasing a 24-hour ticket for €4.50 or a 3-day pass for €12.50.
If the weather is good try and walk as much as you can. It’s the best way to see all the city’s unique architecture and take in all the sights.
Top things to do in Marseille
Top things to do in Marseille
Vieux-Port: This bustling marina is one of the main attractions in Marseille. Boats come and go all day. There are cafes and restaurants along the waterfront to visit. It’s a great place to relax with a beer or wine and watch the boats come in.
Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde: A must-see when visiting Marseille, this beautiful basilica sits high above the city and offers staggering views. The walk is really quite steep so make sure you wear some comfortable shoes. You can get a bus to the top if you can’t be bothered walking.
Le Panier: This is Marseille’s oldest neighbourhood and definitely worth a visit! A maze of narrow streets, colourful buildings and charming squares. Perfect for a relaxing afternoon wandering around.
Calanques National Park: Just outside the city, the Calanques is an area of stunning natural beauty. Spanning 20km of coastline between Marseille and Cassis. This national park is great for hiking and kayaking across the coast.
MuCEM: The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations is dedicated to the history and culture of the region. The building is an architectural masterpiece and definitely worth seeing, even if you don’t fancy going to the museum.
Palais Longchamp: This impressive palace and park is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Home to a botanical garden and several museums, it’s worth a visit. The grounds are really pretty and a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon.
Château d’If: Made famous by the novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”, this fortress can be reached by boat from Marseille. It’s very interesting to learn about the history of the fortress. The views out over the Mediterranean and Marseille are pretty spectacular too.
La Corniche: The coastal walk is well known amongst tourists and locals alike. It stretches for around 5kw and has some amazing views along the way. There’s even a little beach you can stop at for a quick swim!
Les Terrasses du Port: Located at the port of Marseille, this shopping centre is full of shops and restaurants to explore. There’s also an outdoor terrace you can sit out in and enjoy views over the Mediterranean.
Cours Julien: Marseille’s ‘hipster district’, this neighbourhood is home to lots of street art, independent shops and cool cafes. Perfect for experiencing Marseille’s creative side.
Top things to do in Strasbourg
Visit Strasbourg Cathedral: This cathedral is a must-see when visiting Strasbourg. Try and visit on a nice day, you can climb the stairs to the top and get a magnificent view of the city! It’s also a good idea to go back at night and see it lit up. It’s very beautiful.
Explore Petite France: This beautiful neighbourhood is known for its canals, cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings. A UNESCO world heritage site, this area is so relaxing to stroll around on a nice day.
Visit the Palais Rohan: Once the residence of a noble family from Brittany. This 18th century is now home to three museums: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a great way to learn about the history and culture of the region.
Take a Boat Tour: The boat tours here are well worth a visit, you get to see all the main attractions from the river and learn about the history of the city.
Explore La Grande Île: Grande Île literally means Grand Island. This island in the centre of Strasbourg has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988. It’s a beautiful district filled with amazing buildings, relaxing squares and cute shops and cafes.
Visit the European Parliament: This impressive building hosts the European Parliament. You can go inside at certain times, there are exhibits to see and a recorded guide. It’s interesting but might not be for everyone.
Explore the Strasbourg Christmas Markets: Strasbourg’s markets are very famous. Definitely don’t miss them if you’re visiting over the festive period. There’s a reason Strasbourg is regarded as the ‘Christmas Capital of the World’.
Visit the Jardin des Deux Rives: Translated to ‘Two Shores Garden’ this park actually covers both sides of the river Rhine. Meaning one side is in France and the other is in Germany. There’s a bridge connecting the two sides so you can quite literally walk into Germany.
Explore the Musée Alsacien: This museum takes you on a tour through old Strasbourg homes and helps you see what life would have been like for residents hundreds of years ago.
Eat like a local: Due to its unique location, this city has both French and German influences in its cuisine. Make sure you try local favourites like Baeckeoffe, Spätzle and Lewerknepfle.
How to spend three days in Marseille
Morning: Begin your holiday with a visit to Vieux Port. This bustling marina offers plenty to do and plenty of photo opportunities. Walk along the waterfront, visit the daily fish market and maybe stop off for lunch at one of the amazing restaurants here.
Afternoon: After lunch, head to the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. This 18th-century church is stunning inside and out. The views over the city are breathtaking too!
Evening: Head over to the Cours Julien area, a trendy neighbourhood known for its street art and independent shops. There’s an abundance of restaurants here so there’s plenty to choose from!
Morning: Visit MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations), overlooking the old port, it showcases the history and culture of the region. The exhibits are interesting and engaging. It opens at 10 am so you can stop off and get a coffee before it opens. The building is spectacular too!
Afternoon: Go on a boat tour of the Calanques National Park. These tours take you along the stunning coastline, you’ll see plenty of crystal-clear water, rocky cliffs and little coves. Some tours even stop off so you can swim and snorkel!
Evening: Try out some Bouillabaisse at a local restaurant, this famous fish soup originated in Marseille. Best enjoyed with a glass of cold white wine!
Morning: Take the ferry to the Château d’If, a 16th-century fortress located on a small island off the coast of Marseille. It’s very interesting learning about the history of the fortress. The views are amazing too! Pay attention to the weather before visiting, sometimes they close the castle if the weather is really bad.
Afternoon: Grab some lunch at a local restaurant, then spend the afternoon exploring the colourful streets of Le Panier. There are lots shops, cafes and cute squares to explore.
Evening: For your last night in Marseille, go out for drinks in the trendy La Plaine neighbourhood. It’s a great spot for a night out, try not to drink too much though. There’s nothing worse than flying home hungover!
How to spend three days in Strasbourg
Morning: Begin your day at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, try and get there early to beat the crowds. If you’re feeling fit, climb to the top of the tower to see the amazing view.
Afternoon: Take a stroll through Petite France. This picturesque neighbourhood is full of beautiful old houses and cute cafes. It almost feels like stepping back in time. Make sure you stop off for lunch and try some traditional Alsatian cuisine.
Evening: Spend the afternoon relaxing in Place Kléber, the main square in Strasbourg. This central square is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. Perfect for people watching and shopping.
Morning: Spend your morning admiring the work of famous artists like Rubens and Botticelli in the Palais Rohan. This stunning 18th-century palace houses three museums, so you’ll have plenty to see!
Afternoon: After grabbing a nice lunch from a local restaurant, take a boat tour of the city’s canals. It’s a relaxing way to spend the afternoon, especially if you’ve eaten too much for lunch and want to let your stomach settle.
Evening: Have a romantic walk down the River III. This river runs around the historic centre of Strasbourg, and there are plenty of lovely bridges and weeping willows to admire along the way. Once you get tired stop off at a riverside restaurant for some good food and drinks. Just be sure not to drink too much and fall in!
Morning: Visit the Musée Alsacien. This museum showcases life in the Alsace region over the last few centuries. It’s very interesting and has lots of exhibits on traditional clothing, crafts and architecture.
Afternoon: Head over to the Jardin des Deux Rives and spend the afternoon exploring the park. If you walk over the bridge to the German side, there’s a really cool observation deck that offers great views of the city and down the Rhine. You could even stop off for some German food and beer!
Evening: Head back to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg to see it lit up in all its splendour. Get some food at a local restaurant then go and enjoy one of the city’s fabulous beer gardens!
Food and drink: 8
Culture and history: 8
Total score: 55
Food and drink: 9
Culture and history: 9
Total score: 61